Emerging Europe Talks-logo

Emerging Europe Talks

News & Politics Podcasts

Emerging Europe Talks is a series of discussions offering insight and intelligence designed to help entrepreneurs, investors, governments and all knowledge-seekers navigate emerging Europe. The talks focus on innovation and technology, sustainable social and economic growth, and help the right people identify the right opportunities and trends. The series is delivered by Emerging Europe, a London-based growth hub whose mission is to foster the social, economic and democratic development of 23 countries in Central, Eastern, South-East and North-East Europe, and hosted by Andrew Wrobel.


United Kingdom


Emerging Europe Talks is a series of discussions offering insight and intelligence designed to help entrepreneurs, investors, governments and all knowledge-seekers navigate emerging Europe. The talks focus on innovation and technology, sustainable social and economic growth, and help the right people identify the right opportunities and trends. The series is delivered by Emerging Europe, a London-based growth hub whose mission is to foster the social, economic and democratic development of 23 countries in Central, Eastern, South-East and North-East Europe, and hosted by Andrew Wrobel.






#EETalks Sustainable Impact — Climate intelligence with Climatig’s Duško Radulovic

Climate change affects all regions around the world, and the number of risks generated by changing weather conditions and disasters are increasing. Knowledge about potential risks is essential for their reduction, transfer, and adaptation. Climatig is a Croatian climate fintech start-up that helps banks, insurers, facility managers, and real estate decision-makers mitigate climate risks such as drought, floods, extremely high temperatures, and more through the power of climate intelligence. Duško Radulovic, Climatig’s CEO, spoke with Andrew Wrobel about his company’s solution to the challenges in obtaining reliable climate intelligence using geolocation with a precision of 10 metres. One UK-based investor considered flooding to be the main issue but after obtaining the coordinates it turned out wind might be a bigger risk. They also discussed access to the solution. Currently, it is addressed at business clients but will soon be available for individuals who will be able to understand risks, for example, before investing in a new home.


#EETalks Regional Leadership — Innovative Moldova with Dumitru Alaiba

“Moldova is no longer just a consumer of technologies. We are now a nation that exports and generates technologies,” the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Digitalisation, Dumitru Alaiba, wrote on Linkedin in August. He shared the example of Informbusiness, a domestic company that has just launched the production of dynamically-charged electric buses. “We have a booming IT industry. Year-on-year growth is 45 per cent, and 95 per cent of the IT services produced are oriented for export. Altogether, the IT industry in Moldova is about five per cent [of GDP] and if the sector grows even half as fast as it has over the past three years, I think we can double that soon,” he tells Emerging Europe’s Andrew Wrobel. According to the Future of IT in emerging Europe report, 4.4 per cent of Moldovans are employed in the ICT sector. Across the 23 countries of emerging Europe, only Estonia has a higher percentage employed in the sector. “We want to prove that it’s not just Estonia [that can be 100 per cent digital]. Any other country can do it if they take [digitalisation] seriously and if they believe it is possible,” Alaiba adds. “We want to show that you can have a high quality of service when you deal with the Moldovan government, whether you are an entrepreneur, a citizen or a visitor. […] You don't need to go through a massive crisis in order to benefit from the digital transformation.”


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — AI for start-ups with Hotball.ai’s Maksym Nagara

It’s no secret that most start-ups don’t succeed. In fact, more than two-thirds never deliver a positive return to investors. According to a recent Skynova study, 47 per cent of start-up failures in 2022 were due to a lack of financing, nearly double the percentage that failed for the same reason in 2021. Running out of cash was behind 44 per cent of failures, while 33 per cent of start-up failures were attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic’s wide-ranging effects on business and the broader economy. Start-up founders often rely on their knowledge and experience, or that of external consultants, and mentors. And almost 60 per cent of almost 500 founders polled by Skynova said they would have done more market research prior to launching. What if they relied on artificial intelligence to help them put together a business plan? This is what Hotball.ai intends to offer. Maksym Nagara, the founder and CEO of Hotball.ai and the founder and leading consultant of Bezmezh.Consulting, talks with Andrew Wrobel about how the firm’s solution can help start-ups understand strategy and plan better. They also talk about the reasons why start-ups often fail and how AI can help small businesses grow in a sustainable way.


#EETalks She’s Next with Nataliia Ievtushenko and Svitlana Chyrva

“Before I started my internship at Visa, I [ran] a small eco-hotel in the mountains of Ukraine. It was a travel co-working space. It was after the first invasion in 2014. A lot of travel agencies were closed and travel managers needed to work somewhere so I decided to open a space where everybody could help each other and develop the travel industry,” Nataliia Ievtushenko, first an intern and now a full-time employee at Visa tells Andrew Wrobel in the eighth episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. “During the [internship] interview, I chose the product team. It's very interesting for me to see how products are created from the beginning, from the idea until the product is done.” “I'm the head of the women's Visa network inside the company. And I used to be the mentor for some of the newcomers and some of the women in the network. It's really great to feel that your experience, your advice helps someone to grow or just to realise themselves, to achieve results or even to build a relationship with someone. It's important not only for the mentee but also for the mentor just to know that they are helping the younger generation grow, find new paths,” Svitlana Chyrva, Vice President, Country Manager for Visa in Ukraine and Moldova, adds.


#EETalks She’s Next with Michelle Simmons

“I changed companies for the first three roles that I had and then I came to Microsoft,” Michelle Simmons, General Manager Central Europe at Microsoft, tells Andrew Wrobel in the seventh episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. “And what I found was that I've been able to take on new challenges and really work for many different companies inside Microsoft by changing functions, changing geographies and expanding my scope of responsibility. And so that's how I've ended up spending so long at one company because it's been just a platform for incredible learning, professional growth.” “I had the pleasure of first meeting Michelle earlier this year and during our conversations it was her approach to leadership that struck me most,” Andrew says. “That curiosity and authenticity, showing the way forward, especially now in such uncertain times and being able to create a vision for what the future looks like. And identifying and challenging talent in a supportive way so that they can move into their next role, even if it is at a different company.” “I measure myself on how I'm helping people in my organization to achieve their career goals,” Michelle adds.


#EETalks She’s Next with Dan Baxter

“There's been a lot of positive discussion and some positive progress when it comes to gender equality around the world, […] but I think clearly there's much more to be done to truly ensure the level of equality that we all aspire to and I think men have to play a vital role in that,” said Dan Baxter, Vice President, Corporate Communications for Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Visa, in conversation with Emerging Europe’s Andrew Wrobel. This is why halfway through the first series of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa, we take a look at the role of men in the development of female empowerment as the process must include the awareness and engagement of men. “One of the steps is ensuring that you have a diverse work force to start with and setting very clear goals which are measured to ensure that you're continuing to increase the level of diversity within the organisation. [...] We need to show that there are significant benefits of having more women in the workplace, but also in the company environment.” “Involving men in initiatives such as She’s Next contributes to a broader understanding that diversity is an enormous benefit in a workplace. I am also delighted to be the podcast host and I very much hope I will be able to help raise awareness about diversity and the value of female entrepreneurship,” Andrew added.


#EETalks She’s Next with Silke Horáková

"When we started in 2018, […] it was really to try something new in the region and in our country [of Czechia],” Silke Horáková tells Andrew Wrobel in the fifth episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. “It was about convincing investors that impact investing is something valid and has a future. That it's worthwhile to invest for financial returns, and doing something good for society at the same time.” Silke is one of the founders and a partner at Tilia Impact Ventures, one of the first impact funds in central and eastern Europe. She was previously the CEO of the Czech Private Equity & Venture Capital Association and is originally from Germany. She moved to Czechia during the Velvet Revolution. She is also the co-owner of Albatros Media, the largest Czech book publishing company. “Silke says she is not an entrepreneur herself. Yet she’s co-founded quite a few initiatives, including the European Women in VC community that empowers founders who are making a difference in the world. What struck me is the passion she has for social and environmental impact. I very much wish we had more people that are so committed to supporting changemakers in the emerging Europe region,” Andrew says. “Looking back to 2010, when I heard for the first time about the concept of impact investing, right from the start I had a deep desire to do something,” Silke adds.


#EETalks Success and Failure — IT and software business with Oves Enterprise’ Mihai Filip

The global ICT market is bound to grow. Digitalisation, cloud computing, Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) are only a few drivers of that growth. Global ICT spending reached about 4.9 trillion US dollars in 2020 and is expected to reach 5.8 trillion US dollars by 2023. That growth encourages entrepreneurs to set up new companies offering IT services. MIhai Filip, the founder and CEO of Romania-based Oves Enterprise, and also a serial entrepreneur, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about why he set up a software engineering company and how he found his niche in that rapidly developing sector, how he continues to innovate on a daily basis and provide value to his partners and clients. They also talk about his successes and failures such as working with high-profile clients in the private and public sectors, and working to acquire a new client and admitting his company was not ready for that client at the time.


#EETalks She’s Next with Nadya Zhexembayeva and Cristina Doros

“I was born into a century and a family that went through every kind of disruption imaginable. I come from […] Central Asia, which has gone through tremendous turbulence: two brutal world wars, multiple civil wars in between every kind of disruption possible, and then that finished with the collapse of our government,“ Nadya Zhexembayeva tells Andrew Wrobel in the fourth episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. Her first job was in an insurance business selling life insurance in the collapsing Soviet Union. Now Nadya is a recovering academic scientist, entrepreneur, educator, and the founder and chief reinvention officer at ⁠Reinvention Academy⁠. “And if for some people stability is a norm, for me, turbulence is the norm. Today, as we face all kinds of disruption, it’s a competitive advantage, meaning I am more ready to deal with change.” “Imagine this scene, a relatively young professor at business school meets a vice president of a bank in the same class,” says Cristina Doros, now vice president, regional manager for Central Asia and Azerbaijan at Visa, who first med Nadya back in 2009. “It's an inspiration because sometimes when you feel down, when you think your things are going south and you are no good at anything, then I see, I look at Nadya's speeches, I listen to her online, I read the post and I said to myself, OK, you know what, that's the meaning you've been missing.” “We are all learning from each other and in that environment, it's all about creating conditions where we can all share, because the wisdom in the room is tremendous with all of these executives,” Nadya adds.


#EETalks She’s Next with Elena Marinova

“I was born and raised in a family of engineers. All around me were gadgets and software, and I wasn't really excited about them. My father taught me how to programme. It was basic, and it was more than 30 years ago, and did not excite me that much,” Elena Marinova tells Andrew Wrobel in the third episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by VISA. Elena is president and chair of the board of directors at Musala Soft, a software service company, founded in 2000 and currently with offices in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Egypt, and Emerging Europe’s Female Business Leader for 2020. “But 2000 was the year of the dot com crash. We started with fancy Silicon Valley start-ups. Everything was super shiny…unicorns and rainbows. A few months later, we lost all our clients. And a year later, we were almost done. […] It turned out to be an extremely fun and dynamic field.” Musala Soft was recently acquired by the KKCG Group and is now part of Qinshift, although it has kept its original brand. “I have known Elena for a few years, and I cannot find another person who is so committed to supporting young generations of programmers, and not just in her home country of Bulgaria. Back in 2017, she co-founded the European Junior Olympiad in Informatics for kids from the Council of Europe countries and gave them a stage to compete and create friendships that will last for life and lead to scientific breakthroughs and a better and more connected world. And her enthusiasm is contagious,” Andrew says. “If you like the things that you're doing, of course, you're doing more of them and it's not a nine to five thing. It's something you live with all the time,” Elena adds. And she seems to have taken a liking to programming in the end.


#EETalks She's Next with Turkan Ismayilli and Cristina Doros

“My background is the tourism industry, but when my son was born, he came with a bonus. [This is how] autism came into our lives,” Turkan Ismayilli, the founder of the YouTube channel Cin Bala with animations and fairy tales addressed to special children, tells Andrew Wrobel in the second episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. Turkan started the channel during the Covid-19 pandemic, after her family had come to Germany and attending therapy sessions was close to impossible. "Our direction is clear, and we started the YouTube channel [to help] autistic kids living in Azerbaijan who do not have a chance to go to therapy centres. [Thanks to these videos] children can learn to speak. We saw it day by day with our son and we have received a lot of messages [from others who say the same]. “To me, it is very much specific to women’s entrepreneurship overall because the research also showed that it's us women having a need from any standpoint, having the need to help, having a need to support our family, having the need to help our close ones move further. We are doers, we do stuff no matter how much we are afraid, no matter how much we are not sure. Mostly we are not sure, but we still do things,” adds Cristina Doros, vice president, regional manager for Central Asia and Azerbaijan at Visa, who also joined the episode.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — The Future of News with Post’s Noam Bardin

The world of social media is changing. In 2023, Elon Musk’s Twitter has 353.9 million users, almost four per cent fewer than in 2022, and is expected to lose another five per cent next year, according to BankMyCell. Previously, it built its network thanks to three communities: politicians, celebrities, and journalists, who could broadcast directly to a large audience without any gatekeepers, build personal brands and promote stories that they believe are newsworthy. Trolls use Twitter because its algorithms give their content disproportionate weight in the conversation. As a result, according to MIT, falsehoods on Twitter spread 10-20 faster than facts. Mark Zuckerberg’s Threads, launched on July 6, 2023, got off to a great start with over 100 million subscribers within just five days. But, according to SimilarWeb, Threads’ daily active user base dropped from 49 million in the launch week to 23.6 million now. Where is news in this picture? Well, the average news platform subscriber is 50 years old. 40 per cent of 18-29 year-olds use social media to consume news. Noam Bardin is the former CEO of Waze and the founder and CEO of Post, which he launched in November 2022. Post is an inclusive platform designed for social media natives and the way they want to consume news. He speaks with Andrew Wrobel about the future of the media industry, from both a consumer and publisher perspective. They also talk about how to make sure that users are part of a community where debate is civil and constructive. They discuss a model that promotes access to content produced by premium publishers and countless experts and academics, without subscriptions or ads, using micropayments with publishers receiving the entire payment revenue.


#EETalks She's Next with Dragana ‘Gaga’ Djermanović

“I'm a growth guide which means I support leaders and managers and start-up founders and some public figures in sorting out their businesses and lives,” Dragana ‘Gaga’ Djermanović tells Andrew Wrobel in the first episode of Emerging Europe Talks She’s Next empowered by Visa. Gaga is a recognised and awarded personal and professional growth advisor. Through her extensive career, she has mentored more than 1,000 managers, leaders, public figures, and founders. “I'm very passionate about supporting people who believe in their dreams and want to realise them, but suffer because they don’t have a clear goal or vision. Sometimes, even with a clear goal or vision, it's too small.” “Gaga is a real inspiration for me. From being the youngest manager in a financial institution in Serbia in her early twenties, through leaving the corporate world to becoming a global influencer, she has shown that nothing is impossible. I was stunned by her remarkably positive attitude and her understanding of giving not only taking,” says Andrew. "Wherever you are and whatever you have done so far, whatever you think you have, you can give to others. And that's an example, either ideas, context or you can even support someone's story: that's giving. And usually, people are building networks in order to receive,” Gaga says.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — Air Pollution with Resysten’s Shajjad Rizvi

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a staggering 99 per cent of the global population breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits and threatens people’s health. More than 6,000 cities across the globe are now monitoring air quality, but the people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, with people in low and middle-income countries suffering the highest exposures. In Europe alone, air pollution kills more than 1,200 children and teenagers per year, according to a report released by the European Environment Agency (EEA). It also significantly increases the risk of disease later in life. Meanwhile, 78 out the 100 most polluted cities in Europe are located in the emerging Europe region, according to IQAir. Shajjad Rizvi MBE, the CEO of Hungarian start-up Resysten, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about Clean Air, his company’s solution. It utilises advanced binding technology and the principles of titanium dioxide and sunlight, which purifies the air through photocatalysis eliminating harmful pollutants associated with various health conditions. They also talk about the challenges of communicating innovative solutions to potential buyers and how businesses can offset their carbon footprint by cleaning their air.


#EETalks Success and Failure — Innovative tourism with VIP Silven’s Hristo Yanev

Tourism is one of the one of the largest and fastest-growing industries globally. In 2022, the entire market was worth over 10.5 trillion US dollars and it is expected grow by some five per cent per annum over the next five years. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry took a strong hit. It is certain that the future of sector will depend on digital and technological discoveries such as the use of chatbots to make reservations, mobility patterns to manage visitor flows, artificial intelligence, IoT, 5G, service-oriented robots, gamification methods for emotional monitoring and much more besides. These innovations will shape the new tourist experience. Hristo Yanev, the founder and CEO of Bulgaria-based VIP Silven and a number of other companies, spoke with Andrew Wrobel about how his company has embraced autonomous vehicles and other innovative solutions in tourism. They also talk about Hristo’s entrepreneurial path as he gives tips to other current and future business owners.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — Tech for sustainability with Microsoft's Petra Čiček

The coming years will be decisive for a sustainable future. The foundations will be laid for unleashing the potential of digital technology and the cloud as the innovation platform for green transformation. This applies to the corporate sector as well as to the public sector and society as a whole. Petra Čiček, Sustainability Lead at Microsoft Central Europe, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about how digitalisation, sustainability, and growth are interconnected and about how the digital skills of the general population are correlated with lower air pollution and more sustainable behaviour. They also discuss the recent Environmental Sustainability Report, which confirms the company’s role in developing and advancing new climate solutions, but also recognises that the climate crisis can’t be solved by any single company, organisation, or government, and the Microsoft Sustainability Academy, which helps future leaders understand sustainability concepts and technology skills.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — The future of education with SET University's Iryna Volnystka

#67 #EETalks Sustainable Impact — The Future of Education with SET University's Iryna Volnystka


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — CEE family businesses with PwC’s Piotr Michalczyk

Family businesses are at the very heart of emerging Europe’s economies. Set up within the last three-four decades, they now contribute meaningfully to the region’s economic growth, development, and employment — accounting for 40–50 per cent of all jobs in the private sector. Despite the current challenging economic conditions, family businesses in the region have seen strong performance over the last financial year, with 83 per cent experiencing growth and only five per cent seeing a reduction in sales. That is more positive than the global picture – across the world, 71 per cent of family businesses grew while eight per cent saw a reduction. Piotr Michalczyk, Poland-based partner at PwC leading the private business practice in Central and Eastern Europe, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about why family businesses in the region are doing better and are more optimistic about the future, as seen in the Family Business Survey, PwC’s global market survey among key decision makers in family businesses. They also talk about how these companies perceive innovation and digitalisation and how they are embracing sustainability and environmental, social, governance (ESG) and how aware they are of the importance of proper succession planning.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact—Making the most of waste with Releaf’s Alexander Sobolenko

Calculations made recently by University of Copenhagen professor Per Gundersen suggest that some 600,000 tons of CO2 could be stored per annum if all Danes simply allowed yard waste to decompose in their gardens instead of burning it. Releaf Paper, however, a greentech start-up founded in 2021 by two Ukrainian innovators, has a different idea about how to use that waste. Their technology, developed by biotechnologist Valentin Frechka (currently 21 years old), allows the processing of fallen leaves and other green waste into cellulose, which is the basis for creating paper and some types of packaging. This material is a direct replacement for primary cellulose obtained from wood. That leaf paper is fully recyclable and has a biodegradation period of only 60 days. As the solution uses raw materials it helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 78 per cent. It also contributes to forest conservation. Alexander Sobolenko, chairman and general manager at Releaf Paper, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about the solution and about how low awareness of alternative sources of paper is among potential business partners. Many are interested in sustainable solutions but find it hard to understand the concept. They also talk about how other start-ups and small companies can understand their carbon footprint and what they can do to make an impact.


#EETalks Sustainable Impact — Measuring carbon footprint with ISFC’s Linda Zeilina

The Covid-19 crisis made people pay more attention—not less—to burning environmental issues such as climate change. The call for global climate action today is urgent, and companies are starting to recognise the need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—not just for the planet, but for the benefit of their own business. However, in a survey carried out by the Boston Consulting Group in October 2022, only 10 per cent of 1,600 companies with 1,000 employees or more and revenues ranging from approximately 100 million to over 10 billion US dollars, across 14 major industries and 18 countries, said that they measure their emissions comprehensively (scope 1, 2, and 3), a one per cent increase compared to 2021. In the survey, respondents also estimated a 25 per cent to 30 per cent average error rate in their emissions measurements. Linda Zeilina, CEO at the International Sustainable Finance Centre (ISFC) and a member of the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance, speaks with Andrew Wrobel about the EU taxonomy of sustainable economic activities, a tool helping investors understand whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable and navigate the transition to a low-carbon economy. They also talk about sustainability education and finally about the CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, taking place on May 15-19, 2023, in Prague, Czechia, which is a specialised event focused on sustainability in finance and business in the emerging Europe region.